MPs urged to opt for direct CDA election

MPs urged to opt for direct CDA election

Group wants to curb political meddling

Legislators are being urged by a civil group to vote for a charter draft that embraces the direct election of Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) members to prevent political influence in the drafting process.

The call comes ahead of a two-day parliament debate on six charter amendment drafts set to begin on Wednesday. Two of the drafts are sponsored individually by the main opposition Pheu Thai Party and government coalition parties. All six seek to revise Section 256 of the constitution to clear the way for the formation of a charter drafting body.

"We're making a plea to all MPs. We're concerned if CDA members are appointed, they will be influenced by the powers-that-be and will not be able to respond to the people's demands," Anusorn Unno, leader of the Committee Campaigning for a People's Constitution (CCPC), on Monday said in the parliament lobby.

"We're calling on all MPs to pass the version calling for the direct election of charter writers as well as the version seeking to [curb] Senate [powers]," he said.

Mr Anusorn then handed a petition for his call to opposition chief whip Sutin Klungsang.

Mr Sutin on Monday said the CCPC's demands for the direct election of CDA members and Senate evaluation are in line with the opposition's view. He said it decided to table four more drafts in a move to revise several sections covering Senate powers, duties and the election of senators.

He said their proposed amendments aim to give assurances that any political change will not allow the Prayut government to consolidate power while the CDA has yet to complete its task.

Mr Sutin said he expects the first reading of the charter amendment drafts to be precise and only be scrutinised by the parliament committee for no more than two weeks. The opposition plans to seek an extraordinary session in October to complete this process, he added.

The opposition, government and Senate whips will meet today to lay down the debate guidelines, Mr Sutin said, noting discussions will only last two days, and there are several issues to cover.

He said the mass rally on Saturday is likely to help the Senate realise the need to amend the 2017 charter, noting senators should exercise good judgement when voting.

The 2017 constitution requires at least one-third of the Senate, or 84 senators, to vote for any charter changes.

According to Mr Sutin, the so-called public draft submitted by rights group Internet Dialogue on Law Reform (iLaw) is unlikely to be put up during the debate as verifying its content will take time.

iLaw submitted their proposed charter amendments to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai last week. It plans to hand in a list of names and signatures of those who support their draft for inspection.

Mr Chuan said on Monday the draft will not be deliberated with the six others because officials are not done with examining it.

"Too bad the draft was handed in late. I did hope it to be scrutinised with the other drafts. But officials said they couldn't [finish the inspection]," he said.

He also welcomed a plan by activists to hold a rally outside of parliament on Thursday.

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